Friday, January 23, 2009

The State of Smart Power


In Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, Joseph Nye penned a post-Inaugural summary of smart power that describes the State of Things as They Are in U.S. foreign policy and reputation. It's the sort of piece Nye has written--or has been forced to write--many times in the past several years while foreign-policy pragmatists were shoved into the back seat by ideologues.

Now Dr. Nye has both a platform and listeners in the new presidential administration; as he notes, President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and incoming Secretary of State Clinton are making all the right noises about restoring America's reputation, particularly with Obama ignoring the naysayers and going ahead with a Guantanamo closure post haste.

One Obama move is particularly impressive to those who remember Northern Ireland's seemingly endless civil war: He has recalled former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, who helped broker the Good Friday peace agreements in 1998, to his country's service as a special envoy for the Middle East.

I can't think of a better choice as Mitchell is one of those figures who seems beyond party and nearly beyond country, which is something the Middle East peace-brokering business sorely needs.

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